Sunday 2 December 2012

Back to Gigging and Youtube Channel Question Response

I'm back gigging at BBar Cafe close to where I live in Gwelup.  Last Thursday was my first night back and uncharacteristically for this time of year there was a storm howling through, so I played inside.  I had played inside once before...let's just say I prefer to play outside in the alfresco.  The problem with inside is it's an all concrete area so getting the sound right is difficult.  And what tends to happen is people who are having a conversation over their meal need to talk over I end up feeling more annoying than enjoyable.  I've experienced this myself many times - been at a venue where I just want to sit back and chat, but instead I almost can't hear the person next to me, shouting to get over top of the music playing.

But I was actually playing quite well, it felt good, it is great to be back.  I'm looking forward to the warm nights out in the alfresco where the acoustics are great, and people can choose to listen or chat, where I'm not competing with conversation.

In other news, I recently exchanged some messages online with a professional guitarist who is at the starting point of establishing his youtube channel.  I had a look at some of his work, it's good stuff, I could get a lot of guitar playing tips from him!  He wanted to know how I got my youtube channel to where it is now.  I was in a very chatty mood at the time so I thought it was worth posting here  My apologies, it's rambly, I could surmise it a few brief paragraphs, but then it wouldn't sound like me!  Here is the slightly edited response:

Mark, you don't need advice from me, I need advice from you! :) You've got the skills no doubt, you are playing with feeling, looks like you have the repertoire too - I mean you play guitar for a living! Although I wish I could pour time into guitar, it's just a hobby for me, the family and the day job mean I only get 5 hours a week if I'm lucky to play and arrange. It's not enough to take the guitar anywhere special, but for this stage in my life it will have to do.

The problem with your youtube channel is exposure. I got lucky. I started a long time ago, in 2006 youtube wasn't even a year old. I posted a (dreadful) cover of Canon in D, a song everybody loves, which became popular and created enough "interest" that at my peak I was getting around 7,000 views per day. That's gone down to about 2,500 now; there are sooo many great guitarists out there I'm competing with now it is to be expected.

There ain't much you can do in a hurry. Post videos of songs you know people like. Watch other people play, and comment on their stuff and press "like" a lot. Don't hassle people to come look at your stuff, just comment on their stuff.  They will come and look at your stuff if they want to. I believe you will get more people coming and looking from a good comment than a trawling comment.  It's all just an investment in time and being active. I didn't realise what I was creating during the time I was very active on youtube, in hindsight it is quite obvious what happened.  Firstly I was increasing my youtube search ranking, but more importantly I was creating connections with an audience who would hang around.

Keep your video and audio quality high. If you can post a video once per week, do it. Don't post a whole bunch in a batch, spread them out over a couple of days at least, so people can keep up. Videos don't need to be "super professional", as in filmed in a studio environment. The audio and video still needs to be high quality, but a few mistakes in playing a song makes it more real, more human. That surprised me at first, but that is what I have discovered my audience appreciates (my youtube audience consists mostly of non-guitarist casual listeners but also some guitar playing listeners.)  I think you connect better, in the youtube environment, if you are "real" - not some ultra professional presenter, but rather you are giving a comfortable experience as a fellow human with faults.  On some level I suspect a listener is thinking "this guy is great, but he isn't perfect, I could do what he does if I tried hard.  That makes me feel good.  What I'm listening to isn't unattainable."

Comment back on interesting comments from viewers. Not every comment, for example "You are great!" doesn't need a response, just smile, nod appreciatively, and move on. Just be active on youtube. You've got the chops, you're a better player than me, it's just an investment in time now, building connections with people (which in turn creates more connections) and away you go. Be active on your blog too, keep it useful. Talk about how you create, the little things that people like to hear they don't hear anywhere else. That you would have liked to have heard when you were starting out.  Pick your audience. Talk about your gigs from a technical point of view and you will attract an audience of hobbyist guitarists that want to be playing and gigging like you. Talk about the beauty of the songs you are arranging and you'll get an audience of music lovers. It's all pretty obvious, I doubt I'm telling you anything you don't already know...

Add value to your videos - post tabs if you can, people *love* tabs. But that only increases your popularity in the guitarist scene.  They don't represent the majority of my listeners, but for me they are _my connections_.  They are the people I invest my energy into, they are the ones I chat with, and exchange ideas, and critique each others work.  They are the reason I'm here at all.  It's interesting; I love playing live to an audience who appreciates the same music as I do, who "gets" what I'm playing.  But online, you don't get that real-time connection with people.  Online I love the conversations I have with fellow guitarists. I don't feel as connected with the online listeners.  I'm not sure how to approach that disconnection...maybe you can take that to a new level.  I think I'm more of a teacher than an outright performer, which "limits my potential audience"...perhaps you should take my learnings and modify them to reach a different audience?

I lost all my early momentum on youtube because I can't update often enough. But there is a baseline momentum that stays alive that keeps me ticking along. Throwing a handful of songs out per year keeps me in the game.  Keep up your momentum.  It means you have to be passionate about what you are doing, and be true to what you are doing.

What are you after? Hooking up more gigs? Want to share/teach? Make money online? There isn't much money to be made in just online videos and blogs. Even with 2,500 views per day I make slightly less than $100AUD(2012) per month. If I licensed and sold tabs, or instructional DVDs, that could make more money. But that is difficult to do legally and would take me a lot of time. I estimate if I recorded a CD I could sell about 3 per day, priced at say $12ea I could probably make $20/day in sales. But that requires time to make a _great_ CD (I would want it to be great) and managing the sales myself. I could make it work, because I have a constant flow of visitors. If you don't have a constant flow of visitors, you won't sell stuff.

Spend time. Create connections with audience. But most importantly what are you after - your answer will tell you what to do.

Oh and be careful; posting covers is a tiny bit illegal. I've had one video claimed (the copyright owner makes money from it, quite sensible, they could have had a take down notice on me but chose instead to cash in) and one video taken down. Three take downs and your account is suspended. I can't give you any advice on who will give you takedowns - maybe surf the net for it, I've only had one in six years so it isn't a problem, but perhaps it might be in the future. Avoid Supertramp covers is all I can tell you so far.

Good luck and good skill!